lion-heart

by Esther Cho

your yellow portraits smile 
ten and naive and unknowing back 
then of the weights that would clutch 
on to your paper dreams

fiddling with your gayageum
colouring strings and making eighth notes 
fly with your porcelain hands now 
shelled with cracks from strenuous labour
and dish soap by the kitchen sink

in seoul they buried you with baby roses they 
loved your voice and your songs that 
I never got to hear with 
crimson painted lips and sparkling laughter
you had just turned twenty

then grandpa threw all your poems away and
grandma withered and you don’t remember her 
face you flipped the blinds of your wedding 
shop and sold your chunky gold ring
at twenty nine your name became umma

polished youth and soft thick books you 
traded for baby bottles and rubber gloves 
when my heart pains and cries you hold me
tight and wipe my tears with warm fingers 
“you are enough”

they watched you turn from
lady to mother you wiped off  
your lipstick and washed out your
sweet perfume dressed in white you gave 
your life for mine

umma
thank you and
sorry 
I love you